Senator Nan Rich has attempted to frame herself as the “true Democrat” and the progressive alternative to Governor Charlie Crist in the Democratic Primary election. But Senator Rich has become the inadvertent beneficiary of a campaign full of poorly executed dirty tricks by those opposing Governor Crist, presumably Republicans.
The latest in the line of dirty tactics designed to suppress support for Crist in the Democratic Primary has been heard in the form of a statewide robo call this week. In recent months, independent groups have waged a campaign of fear and demagoguery against Governor Crist. While Governor Crist has flip-flopped on a number of issues throughout his political career, most long-term officeholders in Florida too have evolved on issues. That is not excuse Governor Crist but to merely point out he is not as unique as many of his detractors claim.
A careful examination of the public records of Bill Nelson, Bob Graham and Lawton Chiles will yield similar flip-flops and evolution on issues as Crist has demonstrated. Those great leaders however did not have the stench of scandal and the appearance of opportunism that Crist demonstrates. Yet it is worth noting that Nelson’s rhetoric in supporting the Reagan economic agenda in 1981 as Democratic Congressman representing the Space Coast and the eastern portion of Orlando was very different than when he ran for Governor statewide in 1990. His rhetoric by 2000 when he was running for US Senate did not resemble his early 1980s views at all. Similar comparisons can be made of Chiles and Graham through the years.
This is not to say Crist is a Graham/Chiles/Nelson quality candidate or officeholder. He clearly is not and his campaign has already begun to expose the numerous flaws and weaknesses that Governor Crist does posses. But to pretend as if he is somehow unique in his propensity to change positions of critical issues is absurd.
Senator Rich has stated she will support the nominee of the Democratic Party. She can begin by being magnanimous now and repudiating the efforts of Republicans and other anti-Crist forces to suppress Democratic turnout and enthusiasm. She can do herself great credit by standing tall and though these attacks indirectly benefit her, making it clear she does not support this style of dirty campaigning.
Barring an epic collapse, Governor Crist will be nominated by the Democratic Party. Irrespective of whatever personal views Democrats across Florida have towards Governor Crist, it is incumbent upon all that want to see Rick Scott defeated in November that these shady attacks stop.
Senator Rich alone has the ability to stop these attacks from resonating in the fashion those agitating from the outside would hope. Our hope is that she will take this opportunity to do the right thing and cement her legacy as a progressive champion who was a great servant for the Democratic Party.